Passenger assistance unit blamed for airport injuries

04 January 2021 | Accidents

ELLANIE SMIT



WINDHOEK

Poor maintenance of equipment, overloading and untrained staff have been highlighted as the contributing factors to a scissor-lift passenger assistance unit (PAU) collapsing last year at the Hosea Kutako International Airport.

The incident, which occurred on 13 December, resulted in six people being injured while disembarking an Air Namibia aircraft.

This is according to the final incident report by the directorate of aircraft accident and incident investigations that was recently published.

According to the report, the incident happened when Air Namibia check-in agents and the PAU driver were assisting passengers with limited mobility during disembarking from Air Namibia flight SW 708 which arrived from Cape Town.

The equipment was first used to offload passengers who needed assistance from flight SW 7928 which arrived from Johannesburg and proceeded to flight SW 708 as the flights arrived at almost the same time.

Overloading

“While assisting passengers with limited mobility to disembark from flight SW 708, the equipment failed and some of the occupants in it were tipped to the back, resulting in six of them being injured,” the report said.

Investigators found that there were 11 people - eight passengers, two check-in agents and a driver - on board when the equipment failed.

The maximum carrying capacity of the PAU equipment is eight people or 1 000kg.

“At the time, the PAU equipment was overloaded as it was carrying 11 people.”

The investigation also found that some of the people on board the PAU equipment were not secured with seat belts, which caused them to be tipped towards the back of the cabin as the equipment slammed back on its lower platform.

Unqualified and uncertified

The report further said that the PAU equipment is required to be operated by an operator with a Ground Support Equipment Class 2 certificate.

It was found that the driver/operator only held a Ground Support Equipment Class 1 certificate, while the check-in agent who was assisting the driver in lowering the PAU was not certified to operate the equipment.

Investigators found the equipment had been poorly maintained, with severe wear and “visible corrosion” and “no indication of lubrication” to indicate the working parts of the lifting components were serviced. Scissor beams had evidence of cracking and the inquiry found that torque shaft welds failed.

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